Bittersweet

I was not prepared for this.

My friend Inger wanted to take me to lunch for my birthday. “I’ll just take the ferry over to Mukilteo and we can eat close by.” I was excited to see her, so didn’t think twice about it.

Then as I drove down Mukilteo Speedway towards the ferry, I saw the old WinePress office. My throat tightened, but I kept driving.

As I passed our old house overlooking the water, it looked as though there was a for sale sign in front. Thoughts of buying the house and trying to restore what’s been lost danced through my head. Now I’m almost getting dizzy.  Oh dear. What am I doing?

I head down the hill to the ferry, and turn into the parking lot at the Mukilteo Beach. Tears begin to flow down my cheeks as I remember the place I used to come and pray each morning. Then there was the spot where Chuck also had his quiet time. Years of special times with God flooded my memory.

As I looked at the choppy waves and watched Inger’s ferry approaching, I remembered the Christmas Letter I’d written in December of 1996 – The Year of Miracles in the Dean Family.  I dug it out when I got home tonight.

In it I recounted our recommitment to our family as a result of a book we published called “The Family, God’s Weapon for Victory.”  The fruit of that commitment came quickly as we saw Roby move back home and commit her heart to the Lord.

“After that, we had the faith to believe for the rest of our kids. If God could get a hold of her, He could certainly do the same for the boys.

It took until August for the next major miracle. With Roby working with us in WinePress, the three of us spent months begging God to do whatever it takes to get the boy’s attention, and that He did! One summer day, out of the blue, Garrett and Aaron both agreed to go with us to a meeting held at Marysville First Assembly of God. A young man from southern California named Tracey Armstrong was the speaker. Roby, the boys and I sat in the second row, absolutely in awe of the power of God. When Tracey called me out to pray for me, I knew God was about to do something awesome. He looked at me and said “You’ve got a breakthrough coming in your family. Everything you’ve been praying for with regards to your family will come to pass!”

The rest of that Christmas letter shared the transformation of both Garrett and Aaron and how we all started working together at WinePress in the new office right down the street.

“God is blessing our obedience to do what He told us to do, no matter what the circumstances are. ..Work together in the publishing business, and keep the family before the business.”

What a tragedy. God was working in such a mighty way, and the enemy came in and completely tore it all apart. The year I wrote that Christmas Letter was the same year I met Carla at the Write to Publish Conference, which was the beginning of being lured into the cult, the beginning of the end of WinePress, the beginning of the end of my marriage, and the beginning of the end of our family as we knew it.

While it was a very joyful day today, I grieved some more today. I grieved for the loss of the family we had committed to keep before the business, for the destruction of my 18 year marriage, for the annihilation of my youngest and oldest son’s faith, and for the death of the publishing company that I knew and loved that is no more.

It was a bittersweet day today. And the tears are still flowing.

I guess it’s going to be this way for a while.

This is Going to Take Some Time

Last week I spent some time doing the final cleaning of the house I lived in for the last few years.

It was quite the challenge to remove the leftovers of the carpet tape on the Pergo flooring.

I figured applying Goof Off and letting it sit for a while would make my clean up easy and fast. I guess I had an image in my mind of the way oven cleaner works. Spray on, walk away for a few hours, and then come back to find it all clean with just a little dust to wipe out.

NOT!

The Goof Off took off the top layer, but that was it. I tried using my putty knife to scrape off the rest.

Sheesh! This was going to be a project… I don’t have time for all this mess!

I tried applying more Goof Off, getting on my hands and knees and using a scouring pad to begin removing what’s left.

OK God. This is not going to go the way I planned, is it?

Back to the hardware store for a sharper tool and better adhesive remover.

Squirt on the new stuff. Let it sit for a while.

As I begin scraping with a razor it finally starts to come up, but still not without a fight.

I realized that I was going to be down there for a while, so I had to finally accept it.

It’s still going to take some time to finish this!

Hmmmmm…isn’t this just like my journey? In my typical optimism I am thinking as I deal with major issues in my counseling, and as I get de-programmed and learn again about the goodness of God, the healing should be quick and easy.

NOT!

There are so many layers of pain from the abuse.

And then there are the consequences of bad choices.

How do I reconcile the loss of our family and grieve well? What about the destruction I see in the lives of those I love who have lost their faith in God because of this tragic misrepresentation of God?

Then how do I get to a place of forgiving myself for the deception I led so many other unsuspecting believers into? These were people who wanted to love God with everything!

I’m afraid this is going to take a while.

And it’s not going to go the way I plan.

A friend recently dubbed me “Mrs. Job”… I’ve been thinking about that and it made me think of a fitting scripture:

Job 13:15a
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him

Defensive Maneuvers

Been thinking a lot about my journey and how I have protected myself against the pain that I carried for so many years. I read this quote in the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book and it is so helpful to see all the different ways I run from pain.

When we are children, creating a defensive wall to shield us from pain can serve as one of God’s great gifts to us. If someone suffers emotional or sexual abuse as a young child, for example, denial of the assault on his or her exposed humanity serves as a healthy survival mechanism. Blocking out the pain enables him or her to endure such painful circumstances. It is healthy to not fully experience painful realities when we are that young so that we survive emotionally.

The transition into adulthood, however, requires that we mature through our “defense mechanisms” of denial in favor of honestly looking at what is true—at reality. Jesus himself said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

Unconsciously, however, we carry many defensive maneuvers into adulthood to protect ourselves from pain. And in adulthood, they block us from growing up spiritually and emotionally.

The following are a few common defenses:

  • Denial (or selective forgetting)
  • Minimizing
  • Blaming others
  • Blaming yourself
  • Rationalizing
  • Intellectualizing
  • Distracting
  • Becoming hostile
                              Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Pages 141-142
     I have tended to go into denial, minimize the pain, and rationalize to myself why the pain is even there. I think I’ve used my positive personality and natural sales ability to actually sell myself on how it’s really not that bad,  rationalizing away the pain and convincing myself that I really don’t feel it. I think that’s why I always end up full circle and out of touch with what is really going on inside me. But then I go into denial, minimize, and rationalize it away, so I’m good again for a while…but always end up back where I started.
     I can look back and see specific times in my life where I’ve utilized these defensive maneuvers to my own peril. A failed marriage. Allowing myself to be cut off from my children. Losing control of the business I helped establish. Every single time, I denied the truth, minimized and rationalized away the terrible pain, instead of allowing the Lord to teach me in the pain, and maybe even open my eyes to the errors of my ways.
     I’m committed this time, rather than going into my normal routine, I’m allowing myself to feel the pain, embracing the negative emotions, and asking God to show me how He feels about each one.
     This has been a powerful process for me to pursue and I’m thankful for dear friends (Jessica Gambill specifically) who have encouraged me to bring the Lord into the middle of each thought and emotion. Each one is a result of the pain of the past (whether recent or from childhood) and embracing them has been a wonderful opportunity to grow and change and learn how to really trust the loving God I’ve seen as a tyrant for so many years.

Grief and Loss

As I continue to read through the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book, I am amazed at God’s timing. I have been experiencing profound sadness over this last week and wouldn’t you know the chapter I read this morning was “Enlarge Your Soul Through Grief and Loss.”

Bingo.

Being one who runs from pain, this quote was especially meaningful for me:

Turning toward our pain is counterintuitive. But in fact, the heat of Christianity is that the way to life is through death, the pathway to resurrection is through crucifixion. Of course, it preaches easier than it lives.

Gerald Sittser, in his book A Grace Disguised, reflects on the loss of his mother, wife, and young daughter from a horrific car accident. He chose not to run from his loss but to walk directly into the darkness letting the experience of that overwhelming tragedy transform his life. He learned that the quickest way to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west chasing after it, but to head east into the darkness until you finally reach the sunrise.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Pages 140-141

I consider this authors’ loss and feel blessed that my loss was so small in comparison. After all….

A business can be rebuilt.

Faith can be restored.

A mind can be deprogrammed.

Relationships can be reconciled.

Hmmmmm…..Feeling very grateful right now, and not the least bit sad.  :)

No More Ignoring Emotions

After spending time this week in deep sadness I remembered a section in the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book that related to the way I’ve been feeling. I’ve blogged recently about spiritualizing away conflict which was one of “The Top Ten Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality”. The one I want to visit today is Ignoring the Emotions of Anger, Sadness, and Fear.

Many of us Christians believe wholeheartedly that anger, sadness, and fear are sins to be avoided, indicating something is wrong with our spiritual life. Anger is dangerous and unloving toward others. Sadness indicates a lack of faith in the promises of God; depression surely reveals a life outside the will of God! And fear? The Bible is filled with commands to “not be anxious about anything” and “do not fear” (see Philippians 4:6 and Isaiah 41:10).

So what do we do? We try to inflate ourselves with a false confidence to make those feelings go away. We quote Scripture, pray Scripture, and memorize Scripture—anything to keep ourselves from being overwhelmed by those feelings!

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Page 26

Wow…that is so true. David certainly didn’t avoid those feelings…all throughout the Psalms he poured out his emotions to the Lord, and was honest about how he felt!

I’ve stated in the past that my pattern has been to run from pain. Whether it is work, a cause, a relationship…I will find anything that I can dive into in order to minimize the pain that I carry in my heart. The busier I can make myself, the more noise I can have in my life, the better… that way I can ignore the pain and whatever it is the Lord is trying to teach me from the “dark night of the soul” He is trying to work.

Like most Christians, I was taught that almost all feelings are unreliable and not to be trusted. They go up and down and are the last thing we should be attending to in our spiritual lives. It is true that some Christians live in the extreme of following their feelings in an unhealthy, unbiblical way. It is more common, however, to encounter Christians who do not believe they have permission to admit their feelings or express them openly. This applies especially to the more “difficult” feelings of fear, sadness, shame, anger, hurt, and pain.

Yet how can I listen to what God is saying to me and evaluate what is going on inside me when I am so imprisoned?

To feel is to be human. To minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of our personal God. To the degree that we are unable to express our emotions, we remain impaired in our ability to love God, others, and ourselves well. Yet, as we saw in the previous chapter, our feelings are also a component of what it means to be made in the image of God. To cut them out of our spirituality is to slice off a part of our humanity.

Ibid – Page 26

I guess I’ve lived long enough in an emotionally unhealthy spirituality that I am ready to embrace my humanity and feel the emotions that come. It may not always be pretty or happy, it may actually get downright messy, but one thing I know…it will be authentic.

Yep. Authentic. That’s what I’m going for as I start to rebuild my life.

Thanks for traveling with me on this journey.

PS I’ve temporarily deactivated my FaceBook account due to some privacy concerns. If you need to reach me, feel free to call or text me at 425.241.0265.

Struggling

Feeling emotions that don’t really seem to fit right now.

Shouldn’t I be elated? After all, just last week I reconciled with my son after 12 years of cutting him out of my life because he didn’t join Sound Doctrine with me.

You would think my heart would be happy and filled with joy, but the last few days have been strangely sad.

As I struggle to understand what is happening inside me I think back to my time in ministry back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I spent years teaching veteran wives and other victims of abuse about the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…and now I’m seeing the telltale signs in my own life.

Doing some research on the internet I found an article for people coming out of Mormonism and was amazed at the similarities with where I find myself.

Understanding Trauma

This step involves recognizing abuse and the long-term effects.  Mormons seem to have a wide range of emotional, spiritual, physical, and sexual abuse.  Some lived in highly dysfunctional abusive families, and the Church reinforced and doctrines provided justification.  For others, their families were relatively functional, and the doctrines were slightly more flexible and open.  Then there are those of us somewhere in between.  Abuses caused by extended relatives, clergy, also cannot be ignored.

In any case, Mormon doctrine is designed to be taken seriously, and some of it is quite mind-twisting.  Whatever level of trauma experienced, this is the phase of reconciliation to it.

Thought Reform

Martin insists that for a proper recovery, the ex-cultist must have a good understanding of how they were manipulated.  This is the purpose of this website.  The thought reform causes alienation from the authentic self, so understanding how it was done will help one find their own lost soul.

The Church had the answers to everything, walled us off from the rest of the world, made the doctrine more important than our self, “broadly define[d] sin and narrowly define[d] human nature”, loaded our language to trap us in the “doctrine over self” paradigm, demanded purity, inflicted shame because we could not ever be truly pure, and this increased our dependency… Our only alternative, as repeated time and time again, was certain destruction.

At the end of stage one, Martin summarizes that the joy and rage (and other emotions) must be allowed to run their courses.

http://www.rationalrevelation.com/library/stagescultrecovery.html

I guess I have to embrace the emotions that are coming and not be so surprised, but, as they say, allow them to run their courses.

Being a Type A personality who likes to solve problems and get things done, this is a hard place for me to be, but needful.

Psalm 46:10
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

In An Instant…

“Athena, do you realize that you took the Lord’s name in vain 34 times in that one hour presentation?”

I was shocked that I’d said “God” in a derogatory manner that many times during my talk. This was back in 1986 and the Lord was beginning to awaken my awareness of Him and my sinful state, and one of my reps was lovingly pointing out my blind spots. At that time in my life I literally talked like a trucker, dropping “F” bombs galore and cussing up a storm. It was a big part of the culture in Scientology and I’d spent 7 years in that environment, so drinking lots of coffee (and alcohol), smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day, and swearing like a sailor was my daily fare.

God began to surround me with Christians in my new business venture and looking back I cringe when I think of how I must have sounded to them. At that point in my life I considered Christians wimps and people who needed a crutch, so I wasn’t the least bit interested in any of this Jesus nonsense. But God had other plans.

After Chuck’s fund raising business came into question with the State of Washington Attorney General’s office, my job was on the line with A.L. Williams because the word “fraud” was mentioned in the media regarding the investigation.  You can’t sell mutual funds and be licensed with the SEC and be anywhere in the neighborhood of fraudulent activities! So this event in our lives was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed me to the wall. I was finished with our relationship as it had threatened my career and all I wanted at that point was a divorce.

I walked in one afternoon after I’d made up my mind that it was over, and Chuck seemed different. He had been crying for days and pretty much on the verge of a breakdown, but earlier that day he had talked to my agency manager on the phone and decided to give Jesus a try. I was shocked that he would do something so lame but I could not deny that there was a major change in him, and whatever it was, I found myself drawn to it. It was only 3 days later that I heard myself saying “Well, maybe we can give our marriage one more chance.”

For someone who had such disdain for “those Christian people” it was pretty amazing that I was actually asking myself, could I really be one of them? After all, now that my husband is, I guess I will have to be too…

I began to read “Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis and God softened my heart. It wasn’t much longer before I called one of my other managers and asked him if he could pray with me. We met that same day and prayed together…I gave my life over to Jesus and asked Him to take control. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. That foul mouth of mine was gone. The continual cursing and “F” bombs that were second nature to me disappeared, no longer to return.

In an instant, I was a changed person.

As I thought about my salvation experience the other evening at our Bible Study, I was struck by the miracle God had performed in my life by cleaning up my mouth. I believe even then He had a plan for me to speak for Him, so His first order of business with me was to wash my mouth out with some Holy Spirit soap.

How sad that I could be deceived for 12 years into believing my experience with God before Sound Doctrine was worthless and that I was literally a Judas who needed to be silenced. The more I ponder this, the more I get a sense that God still has a special job for me to do that will focus on the spoken word, and the enemy was intent on destroying me so that the job would not be accomplished.

As we spoke about this at our Bible Study on Thursday night, our leader read from Psalm 119 two references of how His word revives. I immediately thought of someone getting mouth to mouth resuscitation and sensed His reviving power in my life over this last 4 months preparing me to speak for Him.

I looked up the definition of revive on dictionary.com and especially liked the 2nd definition:

2. to restore to life or consciousness: We revived him with artificial respiration.

I truly have been restored to life and consciousness since I walked away on November 10 and have been revived with mouth to mouth respiration from the Holy Spirit.

He has breathed new life into me.

Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth. (Psalm 119:88)